Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Testing Still Practiced Due to Bad Tradition

Alternative methods have not become popular yet

The international day for protection of laboratory animals is celebrated on February 11th. The humanity sacrifices about 100 million laboratory animals every year for the sake of human health and beauty. Is there a moral excuse to this kind of sacrifice nowadays? There are other, humane ways for medical and cosmetic experiments and tests at present time.

Making tests on animals, science proceeds from the assumption that the results of those tests will be applied on human beings as well. However, physiological and anatomical peculiarities and metabolism differences do not make that always rightful. A certain substance might be toxic to a human being, but not toxic to an animal; it might be toxic to one kind of animal and absolutely not toxic to another one.

Howard Florey, the discoverer of penicillin, acknowledged that his drug reached the stage of human clinical tests absolutely incidentally. The scientist conducted his experiments on mice, not on guinea pigs, for which penicillin is a toxic substance. Further animal tests orientation might have catastrophic consequences in connection with so-called new illnesses of the civilization, as well as the development of biotechnologies.

On the one hand, sick people do not get the necessary medicines at times, because their development was stopped over negative results of laboratory  animal tests. On the other hand, if such drugs are approved for production on the base of lab animal testing, they might cause serious complications and even fatal outcomes for people. Those people, who stand for the prohibition of laboratory animal tests, determined that about 150 up-to-date medicines were tested on animals. The series production of those medicines was launched, although they proved to be harmful to people. A lot of people probably remember the tragic story with talidomide drug, which was rather popular during the 1960s. Ten thousand women, who took the drug during their pregnancies, gave birth to children with inborn defects and abnormalities.

There is an alternative to brutal tests on laboratory animals. It is possible to perform a lot of experiments with the use of biological models: bacteria, cell cultures, computer modeling. Unfortunately, all of those progressive methods have not been widely spread in the scientific world yet.

Various scientists stick to different points of view regarding the issue of lab animals. Galina Chernavskaya, a well-known Russian virologist, a member of the bioethics committee of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that the three fourth of animal tests in Russian laboratories can be substituted with cell tests. On the other hand, Anatoly Lukyanov, a biological department professor of the Moscow State University, thinks that the research of human and animal higher nervous activities are still indispensable.

Pharmacology is the basic scientific field, in which laboratory animals are used. This field uses up to 65% of all laboratory animals. Beauty also requires its victims: cosmetic companies often conduct very brutal experiments for the sake of a new beauty product. The cosmetic products, which were manufactured without such tests, are marked with an adequate inscription or with an image of a circled rabbit. Researchers drop a tested substance in rabbit’s eyes, until they get turbid. This is called the Draize test. The campaign against this practice  showed, what scientists can achieve, if they have no animal to conduct their tests on. It was proved that a common egg can be a perfect substitute to rabbit’s eyes.

International norms of the humane conduct for animal testing were passed long time ago. Those norms determine the rules of providing the correct way of keeping lab animals in cages, their feeding, the use of anesthetization and so on. A lot of scientists think that animal testing is still practiced basically on account of a bad tradition, basically. The adequate public opinion, the ethical attitude to animals plays a very important role in this respect. There are alternative methods to substitute vivisection, and their stimulation is also very relevant.

Izvestia

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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